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State Board Strengthens Brain Injury Regulations

     The Maryland State Board of Education took action in their meeting last week to strengthen protections for student-athletes by making permanent the emergency regulations put in place last fall requiring training for coaches in the area of brain injuries.  Click on the link above to access the complete Task Force Report on the MSDE website.
     Board members proposed amending the current regulations in order to provide enhanced protection for athletes.  When the regulations are finalized, they will require refresher concussion training for coaches on a biennial basis; require concussion training for physical education teachers; and make certain that local school systems implement policies to ensure appropriate academic accommodations, documented oral and written notification to parents, and timely notification to athletic directors and school nurses of student-athletes who have sustained a suspected concussion.
     The proposed regulations also identify the health care providers authorized to return a student-athlete to play after a suspected concussion, in an attempt to ensure that the provider has had the proper training for concussion treatment and management.  The proposed regulations would direct the Maryland State Department of Education—in collaboration with medical, academic, and athletic advisors—to identify collision, contact, and non-contact sports, and recommend limitations of contact to reduce risk.
     The Board will publish the revised proposal in the Maryland Register in the coming weeks.  The State Board's work on the issue has been informed by the work of the Traumatic Brain Injury/Sports-Related Concussions Task Force, a State Superintendent-appointed panel of health and athletics officials, which has been meeting since last summer.
     Original emergency regulations, approved last July, required that local school systems train each coach in concussion risk and management, including criteria for removal and return to play and recognition of concussion symptoms. In addition, each school system has been required to implement policies that assure athletes and their parents or guardians receive information about the nature and risk of brain injuries.  The emergency regulations also have required a medical assessment if any student-athlete is suspected of sustaining a concussion or other brain injury.  The athlete cannot be allowed to return to the contest until cleared by a licensed health care provider authorized to provide sports physical examinations for evaluation and return to play.
     Traumatic brain injuries in sports have been in the public spotlight, given attention at both the professional and collegiate level, and State Board members have spent several months working toward strengthened protections for students. The emergency regulations were in place for the start of the 2012-13 school year.
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